Please welcome guest author Jenna Jaxon with A Kiss Beneath the Mistletoe.
Many people—me included—think our Christmas traditions extend much farther back in history than they do. But when I was doing research about Christmas during the Regency period for A Kiss Beneath the Mistletoe, I discovered that Christmas and how we celebrate it, was greatly influenced by the Victorians, and especially after Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol. This left me scratching my head and asking myself, “So what exactly would they have done during the Regency at Christmas?” The answer is a bit surprising.
Christmas during the Regency was celebrated, to be sure, however, it was usually a much quieter, family oriented holiday, lacking almost all of the commercialism that we see later in the century and in our own time. And tended to be celebrated in the country more than the city. People might exchange gifts, but most often children received gifts of toys rather than adults. Adults would greet each other on Christmas Eve and Christmas with “Merry Christmas.”
Greenery was often brought into the house for decorations including holly, ivy, rosemary, and mistletoe. These fresh plants were usually brought in on Christmas Eve. In England there was no Christmas tree in the house unless the family had ties to Germany. The Christmas tree is a German custom, brought to England in 1800 by Queen Charlotte, although it did not catch on until almost 1830.
The tradition of the Yule log, however, was very popular. A huge log was felled out on the estate and brought into the house. It was considered good luck to be the first person in the house to sit on the log before it was fired. The Yule log was traditionally lit with a piece of the previous year’s log.
As I said earlier, the day was quiet, although families went to church, sat down to a sumptuous dinner at about 4:00pm. This repast included roast beef or venison, although roast goose was the mainstay, accompanied by capon, bustard, swan and peacock. Vegetables such as potatoes, squash, and carrots were also served. There was also Mincemeat Pie (or Christmas Pie) and a must have: Christmas Pudding made up of 13 ingredients and boiled in a cloth. After dinner, the family might read or play parlor games or cards. Some popular parlor games were Blind Man’s Bluff (which I make use of in the novella), Hot Cockles, and Snapdragon.
As you can see, Christmas in the Regency was very different from the Christmas celebrations we have today. Still, the good people of England kept Christmas with a sincere spirit that made Yuletide a season to look forward to all year long.
A KISS BENEATH THE MISTLETOE
Is one kiss ever enough?
Jenny Crowley has been duped! At her eighteenth birthday celebration her parents announce that instead of having the London Season she’s dreamed of for years, Jenny has been betrothed from birth to Alexander Isley, son of family friends and heir to a title. A distraught Jenny refuses point-blank to marry Alec, and when her aunt offers to whisk her away to a Christmas house party, complete with many eligible young bachelors, Jenny jumps at the chance to enjoy a variety of entertainments, be courted, and perhaps fall in love.
Alec Isley is between a rock and a hard place. He desires a marriage with Jenny no more than she does, but when his family’s dire financial status is revealed, he follows Jenny to the house party in hopes of convincing her to marry him after all. When he discovers who else is courting her there, Alec is frantic to keep her from making a dreadful mistake. Struggling with new-found feelings for his childhood friend, can Alec convince her of his love in time to save her from being ruined under the mistletoe?
Dishes of trifle finally sat at each place. Jenny itched to pick up her spoon. She could taste the berries and cream even now. She glanced at her father, who at last smiled and nodded.
“So, Charles, when is the wedding to take place?” Great-Aunt Henrietta trumpeted the question from her place at the mid-point of the table, her spoon already busy with her dessert.
“Wedding, Aunt Henrietta?” Papa’s voice rose in a question, but he cut his eyes toward Mamma, who sent a frightened look at Jenny.
Odd, but no more so than her great-aunt’s question. Whose wedding was she talking about?
“Yes, Charles. Jenny’s wedding to young Alexander here.” Henrietta nodded across the table to Alexander Isley, who sat up abruptly, staring at her aunt with wide eyes, as though he thought the old lady quite mad.
Jenny thought so herself. A prickly sensation began at the back of her neck. She shot Alec a quick look. No, his face wore an expression of outright confusion, his brows knit over his dark brown eyes.
“She’s eighteen now, and you promised me when she was of age I’d see her married into the Isley family. I have lived for the day that I could announce to the world that one of my family had moved into the titled class.” She glared at Mama, who blushed and turned to Jenny.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds, Jenny darling,” Mama said, patting her hand.
That might have reassured Jenny, except her mother’s wide, staring eyes said yes, it was that bad. Maybe worse. Her heart began to pound and the sweet trifle turned sour in her mouth.
“Not bad?” Great-Aunt Henrietta swung her gaze to Jenny and fixed her with a cold blue-eyed stare. “You should be grateful, girl. Your parents and I have arranged for you to take your place in society, as a titled lady in due time.”
“It’s not true is it, Mama?” Jenny could barely choke out the words in a voice that didn’t sound like her own at all. Too high, too soft. A peculiar roaring in her ears made her head light.
“Yes, my dear, it most certainly is.” Great-Aunt Henrietta nodded with such vehemence that the feathers on her green velvet turban bobbed back and forth. “When your mother refused to marry up, I swore none of your family would ever see a penny of my money. Then when you were born, she came to me, begged me to reconsider, and promised that you had already been betrothed to the Isley heir here.” She pointed a finger at Alec who looked like he might dive under the table. “She showed me the betrothal papers.”
Everyone at table sat in stunned silence. Jenny looked down at her hands, clasped together so tightly her knuckles showed white. All her dreams of excitement and romance during her season had just exploded in the blink of an eye. Then the real import of her great-aunt’s word sank in and her stomach twisted. They expected her to marry Alec?
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance. She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as President of Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.